It's official: B.J. Upton has signed a five year, $72.5 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.* Griffin covered Upton a little while ago, arguing that his strong, right handed bat and ability to play in the outfield would have made him a good fit for the Mariners. Obviously he's off the table now.
*- As a sign of the times, the announcement was informally confirmed by a change in Upton's Twitter avatar, which now features a picture of the Atlanta logo.
Worse, I'm concerned that his contract will inflate the price for the rest of the outfielders on the market. Fangraphs's annual crowdsourcing effort, usually an eerily accurate forecaster of the contract length and cost for the year's free agents, suggested that Upton was due to sign for something around four years and $52 million. Instead, Upton will earn an annual salary 15% higher than the projection, even with an additional year and an option for a sixth season on top. It's not rampant salary inflation - I'd argue that the projection had the annual value right but probably could have awarded the twenty-eight year old a fifth season - but his deal certainly isn't a bargain.
That doesn't bode well for the Mariners. The M's will likely add an outfielder in free agency, and if Upton's signing is any indication, they're probably not going to get one for ninety cents on the dollar. It's particularly troubling because the Mariners already work with three competitive disadvantages when courting free agent bats: they have a bad hitters ballpark, a team that has been uncompetitive for several seasons, and their location in the Pacific Northwest means more flying and a job a long distance from home for most players (many of whom come from the south). These aren't insurmountable obstacles, but they do suggest that the M's need to overpay to entice free agents to sign with Seattle.
Unfortunately, the M's were already in that position before Upton's signing inflated the value of free agent outfielders. Thus, if Upton's contract is any indication, the M's might need to further escalate their initial estimates for the outfielders on the market. This doesn't ruin the offseason or push the Mariners out of the bidding for a player like Nick Swisher. But it might indicate that the M's will have to pay a bit more for free agent help in the outfield, and that could limit their flexibility in upgrading the rest of the roster.